Last year, I speculated on the criteria that I think makes a picture book a Caldecott winner and I did pretty well predicting the winners with four of the five! This is what I wrote last year:
Caldecott Picture Books Should Appeal to a Wide Audience
The Caldecott is determined by adults, first and foremost, so the picture book has to appeal to adult sensibilities who then imagine this book for a young audience. I think this broad audience is also a fundamental characteristic for winning a Caldecott. In fact, the broader the better, both in age and in subject matter.
Caldecott Books Should Have a Timeless Appeal
I think the picture book to win a Caldecott should also be able to transcend the vagaries of time in terms of staying relevant far into the future. There’s nothing sadder than an old Caldecott picture book that no one reads anymore, like an anachronistic relic from the past, dug up in a dusty attic to be ridiculed that someone actually read this book and liked it a long, long time ago. That’s where the story comes into play.
Caldecott Books Seamlessly Combine Story with Illustrations
I think it’s easier said than done. The graphic design of the pages which is often in the hands of neither the author or illustrator can make or break a picture book.
Caldecott Books Should Be a Discovery?
This is the outlier point for me. I think a great Caldecott winner is a discovery for a well read audience. It’s easy to give the award over and over again to the likes of say … David Weisner, Jon Klassen, Marla Frazee and others, but isn’t even more exciting to put a lesser known illustrator front and center?
This year, I’m adding another criteria: Important Messages for Children. I’m thinking that now, more than ever, picture books that impart an important message to kids is higher on the list than ever.
With these points in mind, this is my list for predicting the 2017 Caldecott. In order to make this list, I researched many mock Caldecott lists and posts which gave me 25 books. After reading all these books, I’ve narrowed it down. I’m also favoring Important Messages for Children as part of my selection process.
My 2018 Caldecott Predictions
Most Likely to Win Caldecott
After The Fall by Dan Santat
My front runner is Dan Santat’s latest fractured fairy tale/growth-mindset picture book that is both clever and moving. It’s the ambiguous ending that seals the deal for me though. The genius of this story is taking something that is well known and finding a spin that is both inspiring, provocative, and cleverly original. The growth mindset message is right on target as well. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Rooting Hard For These
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
There has been a lot of buzz about this non-fiction picture book all year and the genius of this book is how Jason Chin packs a lot of information in beautifully designed page spreads, making it easy to read and understand. The Grand Canyon is a big place to explore, but Chin takes the reader through a logical progression following the waterways and then climbing out of the gorge to the top. This is really an exceptional non-fiction book with every detail of earth science meets biology with a side of ecology is edited to perfection. [nonfiction picture book, ages 7 and up]
Mighty Moby by Ed Young and Barbara Lacosta
This picture book is a clever riff off Moby Dick with twists and turns. What is exceptionally clever is that the reader is required to turn the book sideways from page spread to page spread, which gives a sense of movement as if on a rollicking ship. The mixed media artwork is both realistically rendered but also a puzzle to solve. I feel like Ed Young is due for Caldecott recognition and I am hoping it happens for his through this book. [picture book, ages 6 and up]